By Cheryl Conway
The way things are going, Mt. Olive may soon be labeled the second best city in the world for making dry cured prosciutto.
Not too far of a stretch now that the township is sister cities with Carpegna, Italy- the original land where the cured prosciutto was born and known for making “The best prosciutto in the world.”
A partnership that was announced and established in June, the mayors and representatives from each city have been visiting each other since then to commemorate their new relationship, exchange gifts, tour popular attraction sites in each area and sample the best cured meat products.
The connection between the two cities is Fratelli Beretta, a small meat processing family owned business that began in Europe in 1812, expanding into a manufacturing enterprise in the early 1900s and eventually opening an operation in the United States 20 years ago with its second location in Mt. Olive just three years ago.
After discovering the similarities between Carpegna and Mt. Olive regarding its climate condition and temperatures that are ideal for manufacturing dry cured prosciutto, the owners of Fratelli Beretta decided that Mt. Olive was the perfect location for its new manufacturing facility.
“It was love at first sight,” says Simone Bocchini, president of Fratelli Beretta U.S.A. Inc. “It was a fantastic September day; sky was clear, air was clear. Once we saw the parcel there was no stopping ourselves. We found the air very similar to mountains in Italy. That was good starting point; we use outside air,” as part of the curing meat process.
“That was our first impression of the International Trade Zone,” says Bocchini. He found that the physicality, change of climate, low humidity and elevation mirrored the conditions in Carpegna.
While a lot of particulars go into the manufacture of cured meats, Bocchini explains how the outside air is important when dry curing of salami. He says for six months, they pull in outside air for inside dry curing process. Depending on the type of meat, prosciutto requires up to 11 months before it is ready for consumption; as they get into the fifth or sixth month of that process “We can use outside air to control temperature of the room.”
To think that this process is happening at the International Trade Zone in Mt. Olive is quite impressive.
Fratelli Beretta had a 192,000 square foot, new state of the art facility built at 750 Clark Drive in Mt. Olive, moving into its headquarters on May 18, 2015, and quadrupling its size since opening its original U.S. facility in South Hackensack in the late 1990s. With 83 employees at the Mt. Olive facility, the company produces prosciutto, salami, coppa and pancetta.
It gets 90 percent of its meat from the midwest, “where the biggest farmers are,” says Bocchini, and organic meat from Canada.
At the facility, 43 different dry curing rooms- such as “resting,” “drying” and “aging”- were established to play a role in the manufacturing of the meat products. Some items, such as small salami, can take 25 days before it is cured, while others such as prosciutto can take 11 months, explains Bocchini. One freezer featured during a tour of the facility held 92,600 legs. Bocchini says they cure 2,400 legs per week and work with 1.2 million pounds of meat per day.
The cured meat is then packaged on site in different varieties – whether pre-sliced, single chopped, small salami and bulk- with 4,000 packages of prosciutto sealed every hour, for example- and then distributed all over the U.S. to all major retailers and supermarkets such as Costco, Sam’s Club, Wegmans and Shoprite, and sells to 54 countries with shipments to Korea and Singapore right from the Mt. Olive facility.
Through the catalogue, customers can choose from 156 different items, says Bocchini.
About a year ago, the company decided to create and dedicate a line labeled “Mt. Olive” to feature cured meat with no preservatives, using natural preservative of Swiss chard powder instead.
“Because retailers love the idea and cleanliness” of the Mt. Olive brand, it is sold “everywhere,” placing Mt. Olive’s name on the map in retailers throughout the U.S.
After the production of the first supply of prosciutto cured on site, Bocchini says the idea for a sister city developed about a year later.
“It’s so nice to be so far apart distance-wise but with same conditions,” says Bocchini. “The idea to create energy between two towns,” was the appealing aspect of the partnership, “to make both cities more known,” to exchange benefits, tourists, other trade opportunities that “can improve economics on both sides.”
Two Cities Become Sisters
To commemorate this partnership, a ceremony was held Wednesday, June 27, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., in the Mt. Olive Twp. Council Chambers with Mt. Olive Twp. Mayor Robert Greenbaum and the Mayor of Carpegna, Italy, Angelo Francioni, to exchange keys, flags and gifts.
Lisa King from the Sandshore Elementary School sang accompanied by Gerald D’Abliss, music teacher at the Mt. Olive Middle School.
About 29 people from Carpegna, Italy, arrived on Saturday June 23, and toured the area, the Fratelli Beretta facilities in Mt. Olive and South Hackensack and well as New York City. Vittore Beretta, president of the company, as well as other family members and employees, were part of the constituency from Italy.
“I bring you greetings to all of you and all the thanks to the mayor of Mt. Olive Township,” says Francioni, transcriber by his interpreter Maria Galetta. “It’s a great pleasure to meet you all and visit your town. I want to thank the Beretta family and everyone who works for the Beretta company. It is a great honor for me to be here with you. Thanks for welcoming us. We’re very proud to be here.”
Francioni presented a slide show featuring sites in Carpegna and providing some details about the city. He describes it as a “small town right in the center of Italy” that is part of a region ancient in nature and rich in history where famous artists and musicians once lived. He talks about its “clean air” which makes it a beautiful vacation spot.
Greenbaum then spoke and presented gifts which included a key to the city of Mt. Olive, a shirt with the township logo, a pocket watch and a sign that says “Fratelli Beretta Lane.”
“I like to thank everyone,” says Greenbaum. “I look forward to future gatherings.”
Greenbaum then received gifts in return from representatives of Carpegna which included books of pictures of the sister city and region, pictures of its churches and monasteries and a sculpture from an artist created from the same material used to build the princess’ palace. The sculpture contains the letter C with two other C’s reinforced inside which in Italian represents “believe;” “sharing” and “building a friendship.”
Another gift from Carpegna is a plate which shows the view of the sister city.
The Commissioner of Carpegna, Luca Pasquini, spoke about the special qualities that go into the making of prosciutto. “It’s a miracle of taste coming from Italy,” he says. “Prosciutto, it’s not just a product, it’s an expression of the land of where it’s coming from, It embraces all five senses including the sixth one which is passion. The very pure crystalline air processed in a unique way makes it a very special product. The aromas and the taste of the prosciutto cannot be repeated elsewhere and so we wait so you can see it in its environment in Carpegna so you can taste it in all of its glory.”
At the end of the ceremony, Mt. Olive gave out pins with its emblem to all those in attendance as well as homemade cookies from Adam’s Bakery with the Mt. Olive emblem.
Company Is Passed Down By Generation To Generation
Vittore Beretta’s great great grandfather had started the company 2006 years ago. With a stable business structure that has thrived through two World Wars and The Great Depression. “Fratelli Beretta remains the longest existing family-owned business in Italian charcuterie tradition, focused on providing quality products, deeply entrenched in tradition while emerging as a leader in innovation.”
Currently run by the fifth generation of its founder, several brothers who are sons of Vittore Beretta and his late brother Giuseppe Beretta, are the current key players in the business. Giuseppe Beretta’s wife, Marta Veroni, was on the trip to pay tribute to her husband and visit the sister city of Mt. Olive, accompanied by her son Alberto; her other son Mario stayed behind in Carpegna to keep operations running there.
Before the tasting event held at the facility, Marta Veroni, posed with several family members in front of a plaque and picture of her late husband.
The plaque reads: “In February 1972, Giuseppe was the first Beretta to arrive and believe in the United States of America. What began then as only his intuition and dream has now become a reality realized and treasured by the entire Fratelli Beretta family.”
In 1997, they started operations in New York and South Hackensack, explains Bocchini. Since “they had a good experience in Hackensack” they decided that staying in N.J. would be a good idea to grow the business.
As part of the sister cities’ celebration, those in attendance got to put on hats, slippers and white coats and tour the Mt. Olive facility to learn how the meat is cured firsthand.
Private Tour Held
A private tour of the facility, that included 47 people made up of the visitors from Italy, along with Greenbaum, Council President Joe Nicastro and other representatives from the township, followed the ceremony along with a tasting of Fratelli Beretta’s finest products.
Before the tasting, Vittore Beretta spoke about the history of the company and how it came to N.J. and thanked all the “stars” who made the dream a reality such as the Beretta family’s “willingness to work hard” and staff, says Vittore Beretta.
“Everybody has the strong will to work both in the U.S. and Italy,” he says. “I must include all the wives, without their patience with work and travel with the business this would not be possible. After looking within the right place of N.J., we decided to build a plant in Mt. Olive and we are very happy.”
On July 17, Fratelli Beretta received the Best Neighborhood Award from the N.J. Business & Industry Association. Mt. Olive nominated the company for investing in the facility, creating jobs and supporting other fields in the area of construction, plumbing and electrical, explains Bocchini.
After four years of living here, Bocchini feels at home.
“Every year is growing on me more and more,” says Bocchini who has been with the company for 16 years and as its president since 2013. “I love the location, love the corporation,” as well as professionals in town including the police and fire departments and township officials. “Everyone’s been very helpful. They feel part of us and I feel like part of Mt. Olive already. We feel proud to be here and we want to grow even more.”
Mt. Olive Representatives Visit Carpegna
Five local residents, including Greenbaum and Nicastro, visited Carpegna and sites in Italy from July 13 to July 23 as part of the exchange. A celebration of the sister city partnership was commemorated there on Saturday, July 22.
“This was an incredible event,” says Nicastro who traveled to the sister city with his wife Mary Lalama. “When we got to Carpegna there was a ceremony to unveil the sister city sign that they have displayed at the entrance of the town. That was followed by a walk entering the city’s downtown with many towns’ people joining in. They were very proud of this event. The local band played our national anthem as well as the Italian anthem. That was followed by a walk to the town hall where the two mayors signed the proclamations for sister cities.
“In attendance were also mayors from other towns, the local council as well as the press,” says Nicastro. “After it was a walk across the street to the Palazzo dei Principi (the Palace of Princess), a castle built around 1680. “The Prince who owns the castle was actually sitting next to me, where there was a press conference and exchanging of gifts between the mayors.” Afterward, they attended a reception in the gardens of the palace, describes Nicastro.
At the ceremony, Greenbaum received “the key to the city and some books about the area,” the Mt. Olive mayor describes. “We had exchanged gifts of the same nature two weeks prior when the mayor from Carpegna came to Mt. Olive. Both were very touching ceremonies. The importance of the trip to the mayor and Carpegna was vividly evident. Their extreme pride was beaming.”
After the ceremony, the Mt. Olive contingency got to tour the Beretta plant in Italy, adds Greenbaum who brought along his daughter Halle Greenbaum and his girlfriend Kelly Hyde.
For Mt. Olive, this is the town’s first time establishing a sister city relationship with another city.
Greenbaum says the relationship provides opportunity for “cultural exchange, helping market Fratelli Beretta” which is a “large corporate taxpayer in MO.”
Adds Nicastro, The idea of the sister city is “To promote the businesses that we share a common interest with them. In this case, Fratelli Beretta, a billion dollar business, chose Mt. Olive for the plant as it reminded them of the city of Carpegna in Italy.”
The relationship will “build a friendship and understanding between the different cultures.”
Besides attending the ceremony, the local visitors extended their experience to tour other sites in Italy.
“The trip was wrapped around this event in Carpegna,” says Nicastro, “but the trip was a vacation as well and being our first time in Italy we had to do what people do. Rome, The Vatican, Coliseum. Then on to Pompeii, a trip to Capri, Sorrento and the Almalfi coast, wrapping up in Carpegna.”
With each party paying their own way, why not explore sites loaded with culture, art, history and delicious cuisine.
“This trip was paid for by each of parties personally,” specifies Nicastro, rather than any cost to the township. “There were no tax dollars spent at all. This was a vacation that included a good will trip to Carpegna for the ceremony.”
With so many sites to see, Nicastro describes his favorites.
“Each part was so different,” says Nicastro. “Pompeii and the Colosseum as far as history goes was fantastic, Carpi so beautiful as well as the Almalfi coast with all the houses built into the mountains and the blue waters were breath taking. Sorrento walking to the downtowns and all the small cafes and shops you get the feel what it’s like to live locally. Then Carpegna, what a small town in Italy is all about: Local people, food and the beautiful mountains. A small downtown with no big box stores, just small shops and cafes streets filled with local vendors and local people.”
Highlights from their trip included, Rome with visits to the Colosseum, old Italy, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Vatican; Pompeii; Sorrento which was “absolutely beautiful,” says Greenbaum; Capri, Amalfi Coast, Riccione.
With any new relationships, opportunities for growth and sharing are endless.
“We became instant friends, the Beretta family adopted us as part of their family,” says Greenbaum.
In Mt. Olive, residents can visit town hall to see the display set up with books and materials on the area surrounding and including Carpegna that was given to the town when the mayor visited here, says Greenbaum.
“I would certainly like to go back one day,” reflects Nicastro. “I think it is more about the friendship between two cities as well as our common interest for a business that is great for both our economies and towns. You never know, people may read about Carpegna and maybe want to travel there. Every day the locals of Carpegna- when they are going in and out of their small town- will see the sign that reads “Carpegna and Mount Olive closer than you think,” and maybe the people of Carpegna might want to visit our country and see Mt. Olive, their sister city.
Until that time…it is Ciao for now.